OKINAWAN KOBUDO SEMINAR
Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan
Guest Instructor:
Sensei Martin Nicholson, 3rd Dan
Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan
 
I was fortunate recently to once again have the opportunity to train in the "original weapons system of Okinawa" with my good friend Sensei Martin Nicholson, 3rd Dan, of the Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan. One of the very few Canadian kobudo practitioners ever to train in Okinawa at the Hombu Dojo directly under Sensei Tamayose Hidemi, "Kyoshi", 8th Dan, Okinawan Ken Karate Do Rengo Kai, Sensei Nicholson graciously imparted a wide range of information and techniques to all those who attended his seminar.
 
To give you a brief history of Okinawan kobudo, Taira Shinken (1897-1970) established the "Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinko Kai", (Ancient Weapons Promotion and Preservation Society) in 1955, and upon his death in 1970, Sensei Akamine Eisuke (1925-1999) his senior student, inherited the leadership of the organization.
 
Sensei Tamayose Hidemi, "Kyoshi", 8th Dan
Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan
 
In 1982 Tamayose Sensei began studying directly under Akamine Sensei at the Hozon Shinko Kai Hombu Dojo. As one of the senior students Tamayose Sensei was ranked Nana Dan, 7th Dan, by Akamine Sensei and Hatchi, 8th Dan, by the Okinawa Ken Karate Do Rengo Kai, and he served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors until the death of Akamine Sensei in 1999. Tamayose Sensei, in order to perpetuate Ryukyu Kobudo in the manner he had been taught by Akamine Sensei, formed the "Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan" on May 22, 1999.
 
Our training began, as is so often the case in any seminar, with basics. Tonight it was to be basics for the bo and the sai. Both of these weapons have a long established history in Okinawan kobudo, and while many of the katas and basics that are taught throughout the world today may have had their roots in Okinawan kobudo, there is in reality very little remaining similarity to the basic techniques found in the "original weapons system of Okinawa" as taught by the Ryukyu Kobudo Tesshinkan, and the bo and sai katas taught in most western dojos today. The reason for this lies in several key factors, four of which were discussed during the two hour seminar.
 
Today if you watch a North American version of a recognized Okinawan bo kata for example, a students main focus will very often be on speed instead of technique. Using a very light weight bo to aid them in performing quick flashy movements that are often performed while in a very high stances this type of kata has little in common with true Okinawan kobudo. In reality the original Okinawan bo kata would have embodied strong hip rotation, and powerful strikes and blocks, all of which require a deep rooted stance. Speed is secondary, quality definitely comes first. As a result the Okinawan version of any weapons kata will take far longer to complete than a North American version of the same kata, but when the kata is performed by a qualified practitioner the quality, purpose, and power of each movement is unmistakeable.
 
 
The first key lies in the use of the hips.
Sensei Nicholson watches closely as Sensei Holland practices.
In Okinawan kobudo great emphasis is placed on the correct use of proper hip rotation, and this was evident right from the very start of Sensei Nicholson's seminar. One of the first things that became evident during the seminar was the difference between Okinawan kobudo and the kind of kobudo that is most often seen here in the West.
 
The second key lies in a strong pulling hand.
Sempai Curtis Lindsay and Sempai Diane Holland practice striking.
In many of today's dojos the embusen of the more popular Okinawan bo katas bears only slight resemblence to the original kata and more often than not the proper use of hips in tandem with basic blocks and strikes is long gone. Watch the bo katas performed at any grading or tournament today and almost every strike or block is delivered with the physical and mental effort being placed primarily on the lead hand. In fact the exact opposite is what is required for maximum effectiveness. It is very important to remember that when using a bo all of the power must be concentrated in the pulling hand, while the lead hand acts primarily as a directional guide adding supplemental kime at the final instant of the technique by way of the proper rotational position of the front hand.
 
For instance, when striking downward the lead hand must be fully rotated so that the first two knuckles are facing upward - not to the ground as is so often the case. If the strike, however, was from the right side to the left side as was the case in the photo above then the thumb would be upper most and the knuckles would be facing towards the right side of the body as shown here. Strength lies not only in a strong pulling hand, but also in knowing which way the hands should be facing at the moment of impact.
 
The third key lies in the grip.
Sempai Colleen Nicholson shows good form and a solid grip.
When you look around at other students practicing their basics notice how they grip the bo. More often than not they will be holding it lightly, perhaps at some point with only their finger tips, often they may be seen thrusting forward to strike while at the same time pointing their index finger forward along the top of the bo. In either case immediate correction is necessary since just as a properly closed fist is fundamental to Shotokan karate, a strong closed grip is fundamental to Okinawan kobudo. There are exceptions of course, such as when transferring the weapon from hand to hand, but for the most part a solid closed grip is required at all times.
 
The fourth key lies in balance.
Ian Elder counters a bo attack using a sai.
Proper posture equates to proper balance. Regardless of what weapon you are training with one of the main keys to success in kobudo lies in establishing proper balance before, during, and after an attacking or defensive movement.
 
It is not enough to have good technique alone. The slightest error in posture or weight distribution can often cause an attacker to find themselves badly over extended and out of position as seen in the photo above, thus making any defensive counter measure much slower than normal and far less effective as well. So remember, do your kobudo from the ground up not the top down, and make good posture your constant companion.
 
As with all good seminars this one went by far to quickly as everyone who attended will attest, but regardless of their rank or their past kobudo experience each student went home with a new appreciation of what goes into making good Okinawan kobudo.
 
 
Our sincere thanks to Sensei Martin Nicholson
and all of his students for a great evening.
 
Part the clouds - see the way.
 
"The objective of kobudo is to contribute to the evolution
of the human spirit through physical and mental training."
Sensei Peter Lindsay